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A classical end to summer

Bay Chamber Concerts presents three last summer shows
By EMILY PARKHURST  |  August 20, 2008
TOURING CREW: Curtis Institute of Music students will be performing in Rockport this weekend.

Curtis-on-Tour | August 21 at 8 pm | Rockport Opera House, Rockport | $25-$35, ages 25 and under $8 | 207.236.2823

First Chair All Stars | August 27 at 8 pm | Strand Theatre, Rockland | August 28 at 8 pm | Rockport Opera House, Rockport | $25-$35, ages 25 and under $8 | 207.236.2823

Summertime is the best time to do most everything in Maine, and listening to classical music is no exception. For the next two weeks the Bay Chamber Concert Series will present the end of their Summer Music Festival with three exciting concerts well worth the drive to Camden-Rockport area.

The first in the series is an all-Brahms concert performed by Roberto Diaz, director of Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, and several professional-level Curtis Institute students. The “Curtis-on-Tour” concert series began when Bay Chamber artistic director Thomas Wolf and Diaz were discussing the ongoing relationship between the two institutions that began years ago when Curtis held their summer music program in Rockport. Since that ended in 1960, Bay Chamber has maintained the relationship, inviting students and faculty from the school to come up to Maine every year to perform.

“We wanted to highlight people with upcoming careers as well as showcasing the school,” says Wolf.

The program includes Brahms favorites like the Cello Sonata No.1 in E minor and the Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, but also contains a transcription of the Violin Sonata in D Major Op. 78 arranged for viola, which will be performed by Diaz.

“Every one of the Curtis Institute directors has performed here in Rockport,” says Wolf. “Roberto is one of the great violists of the world.” Wolf explains that he is generally wary of transcriptions not sanctioned by the composer, but for this work he makes an exception.

The second and third concerts, part of the First Chair All Star series, include a wide range of works for wind instruments and piano. Bay Chamber has invited first-chair musicians in symphonies from San Diego to Pittsburgh to form a woodwind quintet. World-class pianist Max Levinson, the 2005 winner of the Andrew Wolf Chamber Award, joins the woodwinds for the program.

“The Rockport Opera House is a gem of hall,” says Levinson, whose performance will mark the forrth summer in a row he has come to perform there.

The first of the back-to-back concerts, on August 27, will include the Trio for Flute, Bassoon, and Piano by the relatively unknown German-Danish composer Friedrich Kuhlau. The Kuhlau will be followed by Mozart's Quintet in E-flat major and Poulenc's Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet, both of which are well-known works. Francis Poulenc is known for his ability to write for winds and the Sextet is a delightful, albeit obvious, choice for inclusion in this series.

“The Poulenc is one of my favorite pieces of music,” says Levinson. “It’s not a deep or profound piece, but it is exceptional all the same.”

The second concert, on August 28, includes the ever-popular "Beethoven Quintet" and a Rossini quartet for flute, clarinet, bassoon and horn. In addition, per Artistic Director Wolf’s request, the group will close with German Romantic composer Ludwig Thuille’s Sextet in B-flat Major, Op. 6. Thuille was a prolific, but not well-published writer. His sextet is said to be one of his best works, although his operas do still receive some performance.

“If you closed your eyes, you’d think ‘I never realized Brahms wrote a sextet,’” says Wolf of the Thuille. “It sounds like really good Brahms.”

All three shows include pre-concert talks, which, according to Wolf are informal opportunities to find out about the music to be performed as well as getting to know the performers themselves. The Wednesday concerts at the recently renovated Strand Theatre are designed to be a part of the Gallery Night in Rockland. Catering to a younger crowd, these concerts are significantly discounted for people under 25.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached

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